How To Love Yourself While Living With Depression & Anxiety

How To Love Yourself While Living With Depression & Anxiety

Accept the love that YOU deserve.
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I will never forget the day that my doctor diagnosed me with depression and anxiety. I felt both a sense of relief, for finally knowing what was causing me to feel like a person who barely existed anymore, and a sense of both dread and embarrassment. When I looked at myself in the mirror I did not see your "textbook" depressed female; I saw a 22-year-old who worked multiple jobs, went to school and had a fairly active social life. How was I depressed? But as my doctor continued to ask me questions about how certain scenarios made me feel, or how I reacted to various things I began to understand what so many people still don't... there is no mold for a person who suffers from depression and anxiety and they affect everybody in very different ways. This has been one of the hardest lessons for me to learn, to not compare myself to how others react to and handle their mental illness. What has helped me with this disease has been to identify five different ways that I can work towards bettering and loving myself while living with both depression and anxiety.

1. Have a Support System

When you suffer from mental illness, many days you just want to be alone, push people away and do your own thing. But this can actually do more harm than good because as you spend more and more time alone, the easier it is to become overwhelmed by all the negativity and fear running through your mind. It is important to have people you can turn to when you feel down, or even better have that person who knows you need them before you even have to ask. I could not make it through my anxiety attacks without my sweet husband. He is my rock when it comes to dealing with my mental health. Panic attacks for me are ugly. Hyperventilating on the kitchen floor, trying to pull my hair out, ugly. Many people would shy away from this scene, but my husband embraces it as part of who I am, and then he literally embraces me. He reminds me of my worth and my strength. He comforts me in my weakness. And he reminds me that I've made it through this before and I'll do it again. I could not get through these attacks without him and my handful of other close friends who keep me going at my worst. So even if you want to push them away; use your support system. You need them.

2. Do The Things You Enjoy

This is our life right? So why do we let others choose what can and cannot make us happy? We already spend so much time trying to please others, so why not let ourselves have some joy in the things that we love. When I am feeling extra anxious or down, I love getting my sketchpad out and doodling. I am not the best artist, my "work" would never be of any worth to anyone else, but to me, it shows improvement. It shows that instead of curling up in bed and crying, I made myself do something. It is so helpful to have a psychical reminder of success when it comes to dealing with mental illness. Something you can look at and say "I did that!" So if you like to paint, draw, craft, cook, bake or make balloon animals, do it! Allow yourself that joy.

3. Be Active

Any doctor will tell you that exercise is crucial to staying healthy, even more so for someone who deals with mental health. Endorphin's make you happy, right? We need more happy feelings in our brains right? It is so good to be active. But for someone like myself who deals with anxiety, thinking about going to the gym is enough to send me straight to bed with the covers pulled over my head. I am working so hard to be comfortable with my body but some days the gym is not part of the plan because I literally cannot go inside. I'm not even exaggerating here. I have gotten ready, got in my car and driven to the gym and then sat in said car and cried because I was so anxious about going inside.

It sounds so pathetic, right? Sitting in my car, crying before going to the gym of all places. But for me, it is a reality. A not very fun reality. But instead of letting that get to me and keep from getting the exercise that I needed, I have learned to be creative in the ways I get my physical activity in. If you put the effort in, you can find so many ways to keep yourself healthy. A big one for me is to take in all the beauty that Utah has to offer. Since moving here, my husband and I have spent so much time outside exploring and hiking, and because it is so much fun, I do not even realize that I am working out! I also try to find a way to at least stretch every day. I often get that stretching in at work, where I teach Pre-K. My students love "workout" time and it’s a huge mood booster for myself to see them having so much fun and I'm able to get my blood pumping too. I am not perfect about working out and always eating the right way, but I do notice a huge change in my mood and outlook when I push myself to be active. Working out and being active will help improve your mental health in so many ways, you just have to find a way that makes it fun for you!

4. Don't expect perfection.

This is the hardest point for me personally. I am literally working on this every single day. And I will probably be working on it for the rest of my life. Depression and anxiety can be worsened when we constantly compare ourselves to those around us, the images we see on television and the internet and, the worst of all, old versions of our self. Comparing myself now to who I was "pre-depression" is a guaranteed way to make me feel bad about myself. I look at pictures and recall activities that I was participating in then and I realize that I am not doing any of those things now because some days it is hard to leave the house to get groceries. Do not do this to yourself. It just simply is not fair. We are changing every day. I am not supposed to be the same person that I was 5 years ago. If I was, then I would not be progressing the way that I am supposed to. I might have gained more weight than I planned on because of health issues, and I might not have as many "friends" as I did when I was 18, but I have had experiences that have made me an overall stronger person. Focusing on the "whole picture" is very important. The anxiety makes it easy to break down every minute detail about your past and present self, but those small details are not what matters. What matters is taking the experiences and challenges you are given and using them to become the best version of yourself. To quote Hannah Montana, "Nobody's perfect! I gotta work it! Again and again 'til I get it right..." Expecting perfection is a dangerous thing. Instead, strive to live each day the best that you can, know your limits and your goals and forget what the world thinks. Every day that we get up and push on, is a day that I count as a success!
I hope that if you are reading this and you are someone that struggles with depression and anxiety or any form of mental illness, that you know that it is possible to love yourself while living with this disease. We are so much more than our limitations. But we have to make the conscious choice to love ourselves; the choice to include others in our lives, the choice to follow your passion, the choice to be active and the choice to not allow perfection to be your goal. The path to not just existing starts with a choice to love yourself. And speaking from personal experience, that choice is the best one you can make.

Cover Image Credit: whitepaperbooks.com

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If You've Ever Been Called Overly-Emotional Or Too Sensitive, This Is For You

Despite what they have told you, it's a gift.
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Emotional: a word used often nowadays to insult someone for their sensitivity towards a multitude of things.

If you cry happy tears, you're emotional. If you express (even if it's in a healthy way) that something is bothering you, you're sensitive. If your hormones are in a funk and you just happen to be sad one day, you're emotional AND sensitive.

Let me tell you something that goes against everything people have probably ever told you. Being emotional and being sensitive are very, very good things. It's a gift. Your ability to empathize, sympathize, and sensitize yourself to your own situation and to others' situations is a true gift that many people don't possess, therefore many people do not understand.

Never let someone's negativity toward this gift of yours get you down. We are all guilty of bashing something that is unfamiliar to us: something that is different. But take pride in knowing God granted this special gift to you because He believes you will use it to make a difference someday, somehow.

This gift of yours was meant to be utilized. It would not be a part of you if you were not meant to use it. Because of this gift, you will change someone's life someday. You might be the only person that takes a little extra time to listen to someone's struggle when the rest of the world turns their backs.

In a world where a six-figure income is a significant determinant in the career someone pursues, you might be one of the few who decides to donate your time for no income at all. You might be the first friend someone thinks to call when they get good news, simply because they know you will be happy for them. You might be an incredible mother who takes too much time to nurture and raise beautiful children who will one day change the world.

To feel everything with every single part of your being is a truly wonderful thing. You love harder. You smile bigger. You feel more. What a beautiful thing! Could you imagine being the opposite of these things? Insensitive and emotionless?? Both are unhealthy, both aren't nearly as satisfying, and neither will get you anywhere worth going in life.

Imagine how much richer your life is because you love other's so hard. It might mean more heartache, but the reward is always worth the risk. Imagine how much richer your life is because you are overly appreciative of the beauty a simple sunset brings. Imagine how much richer your life is because you can be moved to tears by the lessons of someone else's story.

Embrace every part of who you are and be just that 100%. There will be people who criticize you for the size of your heart. Feel sorry for them. There are people who are dishonest. There are people who are manipulative. There are people who are downright malicious. And the one thing people say to put you down is "you feel too much." Hmm...

Sounds like more of a compliment to me. Just sayin'.

Cover Image Credit: We Heart It

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Buying New Clothes Every Month Has Been The Key To Helping Me Become Happy With My Body Again

Loving my body in new outfits has boosted my self image so much.

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Being body-positive has been really hard for me to do throughout 2019, despite there being an overwhelming surge in body-positivity around me, whether through my friends and family or YouTube. I look in the mirror and what I see is someone I want to make a jean size or two smaller like in the past. That being said, I've slowly been coming around to accepting the body I have now, instead of bashing it constantly. A key way I've come to accept the body I'm in now is through buying myself something new every month, like a new T-shirt or a pair of jeans or sneakers that help me see myself in a positive light. When I'm in a new outfit, I feel invincible. I don't think about how pudgy my stomach is, or about the hair I have growing in random places, like my neck or on my nose (yes, not just in, but ON too).

My bank account tends to suffer as of recently because of this, but it's worth it when I can genuinely feel good in what I am wearing every day. I like to wake up and think about how many outfits I can put together, ready to post my #OOTD for Snapchat without caring what anyone thinks. I've let social media dictate how I feel about myself more than I care to admit. I see how perfect all the models are in everything they're wearing from brands I know and love, yet when I try the same thing on, it's a whole different ugly story.

I don't enjoy trying things on to avoid the shame I feel when things don't fit me right, or if something that I thought would flatter me actually makes me look like a sack of potatoes. Instagram has really hurt my body image a lot — enough to make me delete it for a week after one post sent me spiraling. Going through those bumps made me finally realize it's not my fault if something doesn't fit. Sizes range depending on the item, it's the clothing items fault, not mine. Now that I see that, it's easier to brush off something not fitting me as it should. I know my size very well in the stores I frequent the most, so it's easier for me to pick out things I know will look good and not have to worry about the sizing issue.

Buying yourself something new is not something you should limit to every few months or longer. You shouldn't be afraid to go out of your comfort zone price wise every once and a while either. Coupons exist, stories always offer you them when you first sign up to receive emails and even texts. You can be crafty and still get a high price item for less. If you treat yourself to cheap things, you won't feel half as good as you want to. Granted, sticking to a limit is important but there's no shame in going over the limit every once and a while.

I love shopping as much as I love country music and writing short stories — a lot. Yes, I get yelled at almost every time I get something new. I need to save my money for important things, like for my sorority or for medical issues that could suddenly arise, or for utilities at my house next year off campus.

However, my mental well-being is not something I can ignore.

I can't push the good feelings aside to save 30 or 40 bucks a month. I don't want to feel as low as I've felt about myself anymore. I'm tired of feeling sad or angry at who I am, and I want to learn how to accept myself as I am. Buying myself something new, like clothes, is what offers a positive light to view myself under.

Whether you treat yourself to dinner at your favorite restaurant, or to face masks, or to a new movie when it comes out — don't be afraid to do it. Put yourself first and you'll realize your worth and how much you've been ignoring it in the face of poor confidence.

My confidence isn't back up to where it used to be, but it's getting there.

It may not be the most cash efficient method of self-love, but my body positivity is better than it was a few months ago. Aerie and American Eagle have really helped me become happier with my body, and I can't thank them enough for being more inclusive for people like me who are learning to love themselves again in a new body.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel for all of us hoping to promote our own body positivity, and it could all start with a simple purchase from your favorite store after you read this.

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